Lake Tahoe CC men’s soccer seeks state supremacy at CCCAA Championships, opens against Oxnard
CCCAA Men’s Soccer State Championships
Friday/Sunday, Nov. 4 and 6
at De Anza College
Semifinals – Friday
(1S) Oxnard (17-4-3) vs. (2N) Lake Tahoe CC (18-4-2), 10 a.m.
(1N) Evergreen Valley (17-3-3) vs. (2S) Mt. San Antonio (16-5-3), 1:30 p.m.
Championship – Sunday, 1:30 p.m.
The Lake Tahoe Community College men’s soccer team is bringing its 2015 season to an end exactly where it had planned. Now the Coyotes sit two wins away from capturing the ultimate prize.
“It’s amazing and we couldn’t have asked for much more,” Coyotes sophomore Michael Akin said. “We wanted to make it to final four weekend — the next thing is to win the whole thing.”
Lake Tahoe is one of the last four teams standing in the California, and will play for the CCCAA Championship after advancing to the state’s final four. In the second year of the program, the Coyotes have the chance to make history by achieving the goal they set out to before the season began.
“It’s been put in our heads that we were going to go to the final four since the start of the season — now it’s happening, and we’re going to go win it,” Coyotes freshman Bryan Panameno said. “We’ve worked hard every single day towards this goal.”
North second seed LTCC (18-4-2) will meet South top seed Oxnard College (Calif.) (17-4-3) in the semifinals at De Anza College in Cupertino, California, on Friday, Dec. 4, at 10 a.m. The contest will be a matchup of teams constructed in contrasting fashion — the Coyotes have players from six countries and across California and Nevada while the Condors are made up mostly of homegrown talent.
“We have to play a complete 90 minutes and be consistent for 90 minutes,” Coyotes head coach Nick Arbelaez said. “We have to make sure that we don’t just show up for one half — we need to play for two halves and everyone needs to understand their roles.”
North top seed Evergreen Valley College (San Jose, Calif.) (17-3-3) will meet South second seed Mt. San Antonio College (Walnut, Calif.) (16-5-3) at 1:30 p.m. on Friday in the second semifinal. The CCCAA State Championship will be held at De Anza on Sunday, Dec. 6, at 1:30 p.m.
“To be this far and get here means a whole lot to the team,” Coyotes freshman Jack Larter said. “Everyone’s energy is really high, and they’re really excited to go and get the job done.”
The Coyotes’ road to the final four included a pair of one-goal wins and a shootout victory — and two of their contests came against Golden Valley Conference rivals. After a 2-1 win over Lassen College (Susanville, Calif.) in the first round and a 3-2 victory at Santa Rosa (Calif.) Junior College in the second round, Lake Tahoe advanced to the state championships by beating GVC runner-up Feather River College (Quincy, Calif.) in penalty kicks.
“We’ve had our backs against the wall at certain times, and these guys have not only grown together as a team game by game but they’ve also been able to pull themselves out of holes to get back in games,” Arbelaez said. “This team brings something that I’ve never seen — there’s a different aura about them.”
Lake Tahoe has the deepest team in the state, and has showcased that depth throughout the season. Even as the rotation tightened up during the playoffs, the Coyotes have had no problem looking down their talented bench in critical moments.
“From the start of the season to this point now, we’ve just jelled,” Coyotes freshman Sam Aitken said. “We’re like a big family now — it’s a great feeling.”
The Coyotes enter the final four as the second-highest scoring team in the state, with 68 goals in 24 matches. Sophomore and South Lake Tahoe native Carlos Trujeque leads LTCC with 12 goals and 10 assists — fellow second-year players Ivan Rodriguez and Jerrell Cato each have a team-high 13 assists.
“We’re a small school, we’re a small town and we’re representing against teams that have won the tournament many times,” Panameno said. “We’re looking forward to it, we’re excited and we’re ready to win this. We’re ready to come back as champions.”
Win or lose in De Anza, Lake Tahoe’s postseason run will almost certainly lead to future success. The Coyotes’ second-year program has laid the foundation that has the potential to keep it at the top of the state for years to come.
“It puts us on the map and lets people know that we do have a community college up here,” Arbelalez said. “To be able to have this much success this early is pretty phenomenal, and we’re looking to build off it.”
And the Coyotes certainly wouldn’t mind a CCCAA championship along the way.